World Literature and Social Movements: Black Art and Literature in Berlin

ENGL 337 | 3 credits

About the program

LeadersDr. Ayasha Guerin, Department of English Language and Literatures

Date: Entire Dates: May 24-June 28, 2022  Berlin seminar: June 9-28

Topic: Black Art and Literature in Berlin and the histories of colonialism, transnational feminist politics and art practices, histories of protest and cultures of resistance.

Locations visited: Berlin, Germany  

Funding: This is an Arts Research Abroad (ARA) funded program. The ARA program aims to ensure that upper-level international research courses are accessible to academically qualified students, and that scholarly preparation and aspiration rather than financial means are the deciding factors for student participation. Funded by a generous gift from donors, the Faculty of Arts, and Go Global, the ARA program sponsors advanced research-intensive courses involving international travel.  70% of the program cost will be offset for academically qualified students; and up to 100% of the cost may be offset for academically qualified students who demonstrate financial need (as determined by Enrolment Services). 

Students can only be considered for one major International Learning Award throughout their degree e.g. ARA (Arts Research Abroad) funded Global Seminars, Undergraduate Research Conference. 

About the course

This advanced research intensive course will bring you to study transnational literature and art practices that reflect on the conceptual, linguistic and visual aspects of social movements in Berlin. You will research how Black Art and Literature in Berlin has addressed histories of colonialism, transnational feminist politics and art practices, histories of protest and cultures of resistance. Visiting Black Art and Literature archives from the late 20th century, the course will offer a particular focus on the writings, teachings and feminist organizing of the Afro-German poet and writer May Ayim (1960 -1996), and the award-winning African-American poet Audre Lorde (1934-1992), who regularly visited Berlin in the last eight years of her life, and whose writings and teachings have had a profound and lasting impact on women’s and gender studies, queer studies, Black studies, post-colonial studies and the Afro-German literary movement. You will have the unique opportunity to work directly with the authors' archived manuscripts, essays and poetry, personal correspondences, audio recordings, lectures, public readings, and documentary photography, and to observe the reach of their intellectual labor in Berlin’s art and cultural spaces.  

This course will provide you with several opportunities to do archival research, whether at the largest Black library in Europe (EOTO), or in the archives of Audre Lorde and May Ayim, held at the Freie Universität. The contents of these archives overlap the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of the German city, after which there was a rise of anti-black violence. As Lorde’s poem East Berlin 1989 chronicles, “It feels dangerous now/to be Black in Berlin.”   

When the Berlin wall fell, Lorde - together with Afro-German women like May Ayim and Katherina Oguntoye - were part of a growing literary arts movement shaped by transnational feminist organizing. Black internationalist coalition building brought intersectional approaches to Black identity formation between activists from Europe and the African continent and the South Pacific Islands in the late 20th century. You will learn about the creative artistic and literary approaches of groups like ISD (Initiative of Black Germans) and ADEFRA (Afro-German Women in Germany), as well as contemporary initiatives like Black Art Action Berlin. Student research projects might focus on any one of these initiatives or aspects of Black histories in Berlin.   

Learning Outcomes 

  • International archival research experience 
  • Sharing original scholarship with international public  
  • Group study, Interdisciplinary learning and collaboration between AHVA and ENGL students  

This course will be taught in tandem with Professor Althea Thauberger and her students from VISA 470: Berlin- Art and the City. In preparation for the intensive research portion of this course, you will receive an overview of late 20th and 21st Century Berlin Art and Cultural history, taught with Prof. Thauberger and students of VISA 470 on UBC campus, Vancouver. Students in the ENGL section of the course will develop an original research question and annotated bibliography. Once in Germany, you will attend cultural site visits and receive on-site lectures with students of VISA 470. Visits to the archives will be arranged, with priority for students enrolled in the ENGL section of this course. The final assignment will invite research papers and creative responses that build on the historical dialogues in the archives to address contemporary debates in art, activist and literary spaces. With another learning outcome to produce research that might be presented at a conference or submitted to a scholarly journal, you will also help to develop a public program: a series of workshops and discussions about topics, such as "Seeking and Forging Connections," and "Challenging Silence and Invisibility" at a closing symposium within the planned VISA 470 final exhibition at Kunstraum Bethanien in Berlin. This will prepare and develop your research projects so they might be submitted to research journals and conferences when you return to Canada. 

Experience in the field 


Shared living accommodations in a hostel setting.

Eligibility requirements

  • Be enrolled in UBC Vancouver’s Faculty of Arts.
  • Be in your third, fourth, or final year of study.
  • Be enrolled in at least 24 credits in the Winter Session before the program and be registered in 24 credits in the current Winter Session, or sufficient to graduate.  Please note that students with exceptional circumstances regarding credit loads can identify themselves to Go Global to request an exemption from this requirement.
  • Have a minimum average of 70% with no failed or incomplete courses.
  • Further eligibility requirements particular to each program will be noted below.

Program-specific requirements

Third-year standing and 3 credits from a 100 or 200  level ENGL course or ARTS001, ASTU100, ASTU 101, WRDS150, WRDS350.

How to apply

Application deadline 

January 27, 2021

  1. Log in to the Gateway online application program 
  2. Select “Search Experiences” and type "GSP" to explore Global Seminars programs 
  3. Upload the application form for your selected Global Seminar – see Application documents below 

*Please note that you can apply for up to a maximum of 2 Global Seminars*

Program fees and costs

ARA funding will offset 70%-100% of the approximately CAD $4,400 - $4,900 program fee + flight costs.  

Students are responsible for covering 3 credits of UBC tuition.

The final fee depends on the number of students in the program. Students do not pay the Go Global fee when applying to a Global Seminar. The Go Global fee ($415) is built into the Program Fee and is payable upon acceptance to the program. 

Global seminars refund policy

To withdraw from your program, you must contact Go Global by email to request a withdrawal.  You will not be charged until you officially accept your spot in the program.  Refunds cannot be issued after the program fee is charged to your SSC account. 

In the case of withdrawal, Go Global Award funding must be returned in full.

If you have questions, please connect with your Go Global advisor or email Go Global at

Pre-departure policy

Safety abroad

UBC is committed to preparing students for safe and successful international experiences. In order to achieve this, any student participating in a Go Global Program must complete the following:

Failure to successfully complete these and any other requirements may result in withdrawal from the Go Global Program.


If you are considering applying for a Go Global program and identify with having a disability or pre-existing health condition (mental or physical) which could impact your participation, or if you require academic accommodation, you can contact the following offices and meet with an Accessibility Advisor before the start of your program:

The Centre for Accessibility (Vancouver) 604 822-5844

Disability Resource Centre (Okanagan) 250 807-8053


You can contact Go Global by email, phone, in-person or virtually through Zoom.

Booking a virtual advising appointment

If you need to book an advising appointment, please email and provide an overview of the questions you have. Appointments will be held through Zoom or by phone.

Virtual drop-in advising is available on Tues, Dec 21 and Wed, Dec 22 from 1 to 3 pm PST through Zoom.

In-person drop-in advising hours

Go Global offers in-person drop-in advising at the UBC Life Building during the times below:

  • Tuesday: 1:00 - 3:00 pm
  • Wednesday: 1:00 - 3:00 pm

January Hours

Go Global will hold virtual reception hours on Tues, Jan 4 from 9:30 am to 11:30 am PST and 1 pm to 3:30 pm PST through Zoom.